ASBP: Making a Difference: Combat Medics Save Lives at FOB Courage
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Making a Difference: Combat Medics Save Lives at FOB Courage

By Mark Salcedo, ASBP blood donor recruiter, Fort Sam Houston, Texas
You may never hear of Forward Operating Base (FOB) Courage but tucked into a corner of Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA) – Camp Bullis, Texas, resides one of the world’s greatest military training areas – the Soldier Medic Training Site (SMTS).

During 16 weeks of initial training, Soldiers go through a three-tier training program to become an Army combat medic. They complete casualty assessments, learn to apply a tourniquet, initiate IVs, dress battlefield wounds and conduct other complex medical procedures needed in combat. All Soldiers must pass the National Registry Emergency Medical Technicians exam before graduating and earning the title “Combat Medic.”

After just 14 weeks of classroom and simulated field training, students are transported from JBSA – Fort Sam Houston to FOB Courage for their final two weeks. Here they combine and apply their training: conducting exercises in mounted and dismounted patrols, treating patients in a mass casualty situation and transporting injured patients to a higher level facility for care.

Army Sgt. 1st Class Steve Bolton, a team leader and instructor for Department of Combat Medic Training, is assigned to FOB Courage. Bolton and the other instructors ensure that the training they provide is as realistic and as close to combat as possible. On any given day, teams can be responsible for up to 400 Soldiers at the training site.

Bolton, a combat medic himself, comes from a long line of military service members.

“My dad served in the Army as a communications specialist during Vietnam,” Bolton said. “And, according to my grandmother, every generation in our family has at least two family members who served in the military.”

He also has two deployments to Afghanistan; once in 2007-2008 and again in 2009-2010. Because of his past experience, Bolton started a new initiative during the final combat medic field training exercise. On the final day of training, he coordinates an Armed Services Blood Program (ASBP) blood drive with the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center from Brooke Army Medical Center (BAMC). During the blood drive, combat medic students can volunteer to save the life of an injured service member overseas or to a patient in need at BAMC by donating.

“A medic’s primarily role is to provide emergency medical treatment in combat and to evacuate casualties to the nearest treatment point,” Bolton said. “But there are those times that a medic may have to give of themselves to ensure that their casualty goes home.”

In 2008, Bolton was assigned as a medic to Charlie Company, 1-508th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 82nd Airborne Division.

“I never had an incident where I had to care for a patient longer than 30 minutes,” he added. “However, there were many times when my platoon and I were in the dining facility and a soldier came in stating that blood was needed. We dropped our plates and answered the call.

“Each and every one of us can and should be donating blood,” Bolton stated. “It is a simple thing that each of us can contribute and only takes about 45 minutes from our day. Here at the SMTS, our future combat medics learn to save lives. Through their course studies and by donating blood, it shows their commitment to their country and brothers- and-sisters-in-arms.”

Military blood drives are open to all service members, their family members, Department of Defense/federal civilian employees and retirees. Donations from non-DOD civilians who fit the eligibility criteria and have access to an ASBP blood drive will also be gratefully accepted.

For more information or questions about how you can help, contact the ASBP blood donor recruiter for the Akeroyd Blood Donor Center at (210) 295-4655. The center is open from 7:30 to 11:00 a.m., Monday through Friday. It is located at B1240 Harney Road, behind Budge Dental Clinic on JBSA – Fort Sam Houston. Walk-in donors are always welcome, but appointments are highly encouraged.

About the Armed Services Blood Program
Since 1962, the Armed Services Blood Program has served as the sole provider of blood for the United States military. As a tri-service organization, the ASBP collects, processes, stores and distributes blood and blood products to Soldiers, Sailors, Airmen, Marines and their families worldwide. As one of four national blood collection organizations trusted to ensure the nation has a safe, potent blood supply, the ASBP works closely with our civilian counterparts by sharing donors on military installations where there are no military blood collection centers and by sharing blood products in times of need to maximize availability of this national treasure. To find out more about the ASBP or to schedule an appointment to donate, please visit To interact directly with ASBP staff members, see more photos or get the latest news, follow @militaryblood on Facebook, Twitter, Flickr, YouTube and Pinterest. Find the drop. Donate.

The Armed Services Blood Program is a proud recipient of the Army Maj. Gen. Keith L. Ware Public Affairs award for journalism.